In a remarkable story about the San Diego Public Library, we find that half of the books in the collection have been checked out just within the past 12 months, and over 80% of them just in the last 4 years. That’s fantastic circulation.
In an era in which it’s easier than ever to entertain or educate yourself without checking out a paper book from a library, the citizens of San Diego still go in, find books, and check them out. Heck, they probably even read them. They’re apparently book crazy out there in San Diego.
Granted, there are some San Diegoans who don’t like books. After hearing that a fellow citizen liked to read books, one octogenarian who never visits libraries and who appeared to have no relevance whatever to the discussion said that a “small subset of the population” loves printed books, but he “wondered” whether taxpayers should support that sort of thing.
It’s understandable. A lot of people in the country wonder whether we should continue to support Social Security and Medicare for the elderly, but, you know, different strokes.
The folks who are checking out tens of thousands of books from the library every year might wonder why they’re considered a “small subset of the population.” How small a subset could have checked out so many books in such a short period of time?
The sheet metal mechanic who reads a few dozen books a year probably thinks it’s pretty normal, but then he’s in the library like the thousands of other people checking out books all the time.
Some people who maybe aren’t that great at statistics or critical thinking would try to argue against the San Diego Public Library having paper books by talking about how reading books in general has declined (not that much) since the seventies, or how reading paper versus electronic books has declined slightly in the last few years.
That’s a really tempting trap to fall into if you’re claiming to be a “watchdog” and you need something to complain about.
But the proof is in the pudding, or rather in the circulation statistics. If a library collection is circulating half its inventory every year and over 80% within 4 years, then people there want paper books. It doesn’t really matter what national trends are, but that’s hard to understand when you have an axe to grind.
Fortunately, I work in a library, so I have people to grind my axes for me.
So congratulations to the SDPL for choosing their books so wisely, and with such an understanding of the desires of the community, that such a large portion of the books have circulated in such a short time.
Great work. You stay classy, San Diego,